Naniette Coleman, University of California Berkeley – Diversifying the Hands that Combat Misinformation One Wikipedia “edit” Button Click at a Time

On Wiki Education Week:  Everyone can work to combat misinformation.

Naniette Coleman, PhD candidate in sociology at the University of California Berkeley, determines how Wikipedia can help.

Naniette H. Coleman is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of California Berkeley and a multi-year UC-National Laboratory Graduate Fellow (Los Alamos). She is the only social scientist selected for this distinction in the history of the program.

Naniette’s work sits at the intersection of the sociology of culture and organizations and focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, and privacy in the US context. Specifically, Naniette’s research examines how organizations assess risk, make decisions, and respond to data breaches and organizational compliance with state, federal, and international privacy laws. Naniette was the recipient of the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award from the American Association of Colleges & Universities in 2019.

Diversifying the Hands that Combat Misinformation One Wikipedia “edit” Button Click at a Time


The data is clear. The proliferation of Deepfakes, fake news, fake datasets, and even fake academic journals makes it harder to trust the information we encounter online. While well-researched answers to questions with myriad citations are always out there, so are extra deliciously convincing conspiracy theory clickbait.

Now more than ever, college faculty and students need opportunities to develop digital literacy skills that help us decipher and interrogate the maelstrom of information we encounter daily. While you may not consider Wikipedia the exact right tool for this complex job, the late Erik Olin Wright, former President of the American Sociological Association was a fan. In 2011 he famously called Sociologists to action on  Wikipedia calling it a “real utopia,” that “embodied ideals of equality, open access, participation, and deliberation in a domination-free environment.”

In 2016 I founded an innovative misinformation-combating approach which incorporates the ideals of discovery education and thanks to Wiki Education is accessible to any faculty member anywhere. In six short years, hundreds of affiliated students have led the rapid expansion of publicly available information on privacy, cybersecurity, and surveillance on Wikipedia using my approach. The privacy literacy program teaches students how to actively counter misinformation using the firewalled peer-reviewed articles already available at their fingertips.  

All told, we are one of the top three academic initiatives editing Wikipedia in the world and are comprised of mostly women who are also people of color. And what if I told you my research suggests you can use this model with other topics? Imagine what you and your students could do in just one or two hours a week to actively elevate public discourse and stifle misinformation.

  1. Gina Bennett